"The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway has been closed for traffic due to snowfall in the Valley," said Aamir Ali, coordinator, natural disaster management cell. He said more than 1.25 feet snow had accumulated at Qazigund, the gateway town to Kashmir Valley, in Anantnag district.
"The road clearance work is in progress and a decision on allowing traffic would depend on the weather conditions," he said.
The snowfall across the Valley also led authorities to order closure of schools. "All the schools, which were functional so far, will now remain closed for winter vacation," said an official of Kashmir's divisional administration. He said the schools have been closed due to moderate snowfall in Kashmir Valley, which has resulted in many roads getting blocked, and to avoid inconvenience to the students.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had last month announced that it will keep classes IX, X, XI and XII open during winter in order to cope up with the losses suffered by students during the five-month summer unrest in the Valley when schools were closed. The decision to keep the schools open was criticised by many sections of people who felt there was no point in putting the students through harsh weather conditions as Kashmir was in the grip of intense cold wave with temperatures plunging to minus six degrees Celsius. Students have held several protest demonstrations in the city, appealing the authorities to declare winter vacations.
School holidays in the Kashmir division begin on December 15 every year and the schools reopen on March 1 due to intense cold wave. The snowfall, which began on Wednesday, has ended a two-month dry spell in the Valley as the first snowfall of the winter had taken place earlier than usual on October 22.
The heavy snowfall also led to power disruptions in many parts of the Valley while a large number of telephone connections also snapped. The electricity supply has been suspended as a precautionary measure.
Gulmarg skiing resort in north Kashmir has received nearly two feet of snowfall since Wednesday, raising hopes of tourist arrival, Ali said, adding the road between Tangmarg and Gulmarg is through for traffic.
As the snowfall this winter was delayed, the tourism department had not organised the annual snow festival in Gulmarg but now plans are afoot to organise the same in the first week of January, official sources said. Road clearing operations are underway in all snow-bound areas of the valley as the divisional administration has pressed 75 snow clearance machines into operation.Officials of the power development department have fanned out their workforce to restore the snapped electricity supply wires.